Over the last 18 months, I’ve spent more than a few words on peer-to-peer lending. Most of that has been about the first to market Prosper. Readers have occasionally asked me about Lending Club. I couldn’t give them my opinion for a few reasons. Lending Club launched the site as a Facebook application and I’m not an active user. Beyond that, I questioned the wisdom of mingling financial information with that of a social network whose main rival seems to be MySpace. Lastly, Prosper performs the same function, so I didn’t see any reason to jump into a new system.
So why am I writing about Lending Club now? Lending Club will give anyone who signs up via this link $25 for free just for opening an account with less than $1000. If you open an account with over $1000, you’ll get $50 of free money. (For full disclosure, Lending Club will be giving me $25 or $50 as well, which is nice of them.) Secondly, Lending Club is now available to people who don’t belong to Facebook. It has been that way for a little while. Finally, Lending Club released a couple of pieces of news earlier this week.
Lending Club has 115 active loans to the tune of $1.35 million (as of December 9th). As of yesterday, they have a total of 489 loans for $3,525,660. In contrast, Prosper has funded over $100 million in loans. Lending Club is growing fast, pointing out that it’s nearly doubled the number of active loans in just a few weeks. It’s posed to grow even faster due to the second piece of news it released this week. Lending Club is now able to accept borrowers from the whole United States. Prior to this week, people in California were unable to borrow money from Prosper. By going nationally, they’ve opened themselves up to a new audience of an estimated 108 million people.
The returns of Lending Club look intriguing. They are touting an average return of 12.23%. The borrowers have impressive stats such as an average FICO of 700 and an average 12% debt-to-income ratio. I haven’t investigated the math behind the 12.23% number, but the sample size is small and history is short. It’s worth keep an eye on. For now, I’ve started an account with a little bit of money, less than $100 and will give Lending Club a try.[Editor’s note: Lending Club informed that I got some of the numbers wrong. That’s what I get for reading too quickly. I’ve edited this post to fix them.]